Trump To Shake Up FCC?

Questions Abound For Broadcast Industry’s Oversight Body

When President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in to office tomorrow, a new administration will take the reins of the nation’s regulatory agencies.

This includes the Federal Communications Commission.

Looming questions to be answered by new oversight leadership include:

  • Will we see changes in policy issues such as net neutrality with the FCC?
  • Will there be opportunities for reform of broadcast-ownership rules under a new Congress and new FCC?
  • Will the reconstituted FCC or Congress require FM chips in smartphones?
  • And overall, how will a new FCC treat radio?

 Net Neutrality

Speculation exists that the Trump administration will make this go away.  This is the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally.

Meaning whether you’re checking Facebook, posting pictures to Instagram, shopping on Amazon, streaming Netflix movies or watching cat videos on YouTube, all the information traveling across the Internet to you and from you should be treated the same.

It supposes that your Internet service provider — whether that’s a broadband company like Comcast or a wireless carrier like AT&T or Verizon — can’t block or slow down your access to that content.  And it means that these companies shouldn’t favor their own content and services over their competitors’ offerings.

Broadcast Ownership

Under current FCC ownership rules in the largest radio markets one owner can hold up to 8 stations, but only 5 can be in any one service (AM or FM).

Some parties had hoped to be able to own more FM stations in a market, particularly given the growing levels of competition in the audio marketplace from satellite and online radio.

In rejecting the changes, the FCC found that new audio competition – while clearly growing – does not in the FCC’s eyes replace the local service provided by over-the-air radio.

FM Chips In Smartphones

Smartphones have an FM chip so you can listen to local radio stations on your phone.

Why should you have to pay to use your cell phone data for something that you could get for free?  The FM chip allows you to listen to local over-the-air radio stations for free without needing an internet connection.

The problem is not all phone companies have activated the FM chip which forces you to pay for something that should be free.

How Will AM/FM Radio Be Treated

Current Chairman Tom Wheeler’s term wasn’t set to officially end until Nov. 3, 2018, but he is stepping down to join the Aspen Institute as a senior fellow.

Washington insiders are pointing to current commissioner Ajit Pai as having an inside track to the chairmanship.  He is a supporter of radio.

Pai was the first member of the FCC in over two decades to call for revitalizing the AM radio band; the basic reforms he proposed were adopted in 2015.

Broadcasters – plus marketers & advertisers – will be paying close attention to new leadership and their actions moving forward.